Strummin’ on Easter

The Pawless. This was one of my first sketches.

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, April 17, 2017, 9:27 a.m.

It’s Patriots Day in Boston. It’s the day after Easter here. When I left my nephew’s house on Sunday, the tykes were dashing about in search of dyed eggs.

Among much that I adore about the great-nephews on niece Ella’s side is that they love to hear me play my guitar. We had a stirring sing-along of “Gotta Travel On.” I crafted a tender, off-the-cuff version of Josh’s alleged favorite song, “Speckled Frogs.” In my dramatization, the frogs are sadly supplanted in the lagoon by similarly speckled lizards.

Monte Dutton

Alex – an eighth-grader! – showed some genuine interest in learning how to play guitar himself. I showed him some chords and gave him some advice to avoid some of the pitfalls of my self-teaching.

Learn D. Learn A. Learn switching back and forth between D and A. Cautiously add G. Yet another example of “lather, rinse, repeat.”

Anthony speaks in machine-gun bursts, and, even then, his thoughts race ahead of his words.

I don’t see the three Columbia musketeers often, and absence makes the heart grow fonder on both ends. Nothing tenderizes an aging slab of heart like young’uns jockeying for position and competing for attention.

Ray and Jessica’s children are three and sub-one. Thomas apparently, and not without justification, thinks I am a rhinoceros, so he obligingly imitates a baby one and charges into me. Great tickling and giggling ensues. I hoist him in the air.

“Do again!” commands he.

Baseball limits Thomas. All he lacks for go-kart status is four wheels. Margaret, who just entered her third season, spring, lives a life that involves mainly taking everything in, which is aggravated by the fact that every other human who approaches her will do almost anything to make her giggle. She enjoys her exalted status while it lasts.

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

The food was great, as it was bound to be because nephew Ray, who turned 30 on Easter, is not only a foodie by also a connoisseur of much that he chooses to encounter. Niece Ella was also a major contributor of culinary skill.

I flirted with Freudian suicide by using a knife I gave Ray and Jessica to slice my left thumb instead of the sourdough roll intended. Even though I gave a set of knives away, I still managed to get some use out of it.

Then I drove home and watched war movies.

Ever since I started writing fiction, fans have asked me to write a novel about stock car racing. I kept it a secret while I was working on it. Now it’s out. Lightning in a Bottle is the story of the next big thing, 18-year-old Barrie Jarman.

(Steven Novak cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy Cowboys Come Home, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, The Intangibles, and/or a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs. They’re all signed and reasonably priced. Lightning in a Bottle will be in stock shortly.

Signed copies of Lightning in a Bottle are also available at Emma Jane’s, 105 East Main Street on the Square, Clinton.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

If you’d like me to ship you a signed copy, you can find my address and instructions here. If you want to speed the process up, send me a note and I’ll hook you up with my PayPal account.

(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)

Kindle versions – you don’t have to have a Kindle, just a free app for your electronic devices – of most of my books are available here. Links to print copies are below.

Cowboys Come Home is my brand-new, fresh-off-the-press western, a tale of two World War II veterans of the Pacific who come back home to Texas, intent on resuming their cowboy ways.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is a tale about a crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.(Melanie Ryon cover design)

Crazy of Natural Causes is about the fall and rise of Chance Benford, a Kentucky football coach who reinvents himself. It’s original.

The Intangibles is about the South in the 1960s, complete with racial strife, bigotry, resentment, cultural exchange and, of course, high school football.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

The Audacity of Dope is the tale of Riley Mansfield, a pot-smoking songwriter turned national hero with a taste for the former and a distaste for the latter.

Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories that all began in songs I wrote.

Follow me at Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Twitter (@montedutton), Google+ (MonteDuttonWriter) and/or Instagram (Tug50).

A Time of Illogical Hope

Latham Stadium, Furman University, Greenville, South Carolina. (Monte Dutton)
Latham Stadium, Furman University, Greenville, South Carolina. (Monte Dutton)

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, April 6, 2015, 10:01 a.m.

Normally, at this point on Monday mornings, I’m collecting and recording my day-after observations and conclusions about a NASCAR race. For reasons both admirable and economic, stock car racing’s ruling body turns Easter over to the Lord, the bunny rabbits, and the hard-boiled eggs.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Guess what? Baseball arrives with the first whiffs of summer air, the smell of freshly cut grass, the crack of the bat, and the sound of thousands and thousands of exhales – yes, it really is breathless – as that tiny ball soars uncertainly.

The exhale is often in the form of a moan. Either that or jumping around. Uh, huh! Uh, huh! Uh, huh! Aaaiiieee! Not too unlike the hee-haw of a donkey.

The season began last night with a logical outcome. The St. Louis Cardinals celebrated the messing up of Wrigley Field with a 3-0 decision over the Chicago Cubs. The Cardinals have the most fortunate rivals in sports. Imagine if Ohio State’s biggest game of the year matched the Buckeyes against Ohio University.

The Presbyterian Blue Hose. (Monte Dutton)
The Presbyterian Blue Hose. (Monte Dutton)

Yet I have always liked the Cubs in the same way Lee Clayton wrote for Waylon Jennings that babies love stray dogs (“Ladies Love Outlaws”).

Ray Milland starred in a screwball comedy of a baseball movie called It Happens Every Spring. Below are some of what happens every spring.

Some team will inexplicably get off to a fast start, but all the laughter will have died in sorrow long before the All-Star Break.

As luck would have it, I was sketching this while Tim Lincecum was throwing his second no-hitter. He was actually wearing a white jersey. I was trying to add color to the sketch. I had no idea it was going to be a gem. (Monte Dutton sketch)
As luck would have it, I was sketching this while Tim Lincecum was throwing his second no-hitter. He was actually wearing a white jersey. I was trying to add color to the sketch. I had no idea it was going to be a gem. (Monte Dutton sketch)

Someone will toss a no-hitter and then struggle in almost every other start. For the past two seasons, that pitcher has been Tim Lincecum.

Some kid who batted .467 in spring training will hit .167 in April. Some veteran who hit .167 in the spring will hit .467 in April.

A good team will get off to a slow start. It’s cause for concern. Don’t get too excited, though. Forget I wrote that. If it’s your favorite, you will get excited no matter what. Hot start? Woo-hoo! Slow start? Dadgummit! Playing .500 ball? We’re this far! This far from being a winner.

It reminds me of those fluorescent letters in the plate-glass windows of automobile dealerships: Good credit? Bad credit? No credit at all? Drive right in, and drive right out in a brand-new Daewoo!

Hey, thanks for reading. If you think of it, check out my short fiction at www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com, and my books here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

All the Dyed Easter Eggs of Sport

It's a little easier to compare Fenway Park now to Fenway Park then, but some things are timeless. (Monte Dutton)
It’s a little easier to compare Fenway Park now to Fenway Park then, but some things are timeless. (Monte Dutton)

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, April 5, 2015, 9:32 a.m.

Happy Easter. May you ponder its significance, and may it mean more to you than dyed eggs and chocolate bunny rabbits. Don’t feel guilty about it, though, for kids like dyed eggs and chocolate rabbits. Christ is risen, and, coincidentally, here comes Peter Cottontail, hopping down the bunny trail.

So many Easter Bunnies in the world of sports.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

The present is glorified to the detriment of the past, and, ultimately, it’s because there isn’t much money to be made from the past.

Kentucky lost last night in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, falling two shy of the first 40-victory season. To be fair, it should be acknowledged that, for most of college basketball history, no one had a chance to win 40 games because a season wasn’t that long. Kentucky was 38-2 in 2012, 38-1 this year, the Wildcats that lost two won the national championship.

Indiana only had a chance to be 32-0 in 1976. North Carolina was 32-0 in 1957. San Francisco was 29-0 in 1956. UCLA went 30-0 in 1964, ’67, ’72, and ’73.

One cannot hold it against a school that it won as many games as it was allowed to play. The seasons get longer, but one cannot improve upon perfection.

When Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941, it was a percentage that hasn’t been equaled since. No one in college basketball has equaled 1.000 since 1976, and 1.000 cannot be exceeded, no matter how many times an athlete says he’s giving 110 percent.

Post-season home runs? The entire post-season in baseball consisted of the World Series until 1969. Mickey Mantle hit 18 home runs in the Series. That’s the pertinent record.

Would Clayton Kershaw overpower Babe Ruth?  (Monte Dutton sketch)
Would Clayton Kershaw overpower Babe Ruth? (Monte Dutton sketch)

Underneath this façade of hype, somehow it has become acceptable to defend the superiority of the present by citing the level of play. Athletes are better. Everything is bigger. Conditions have changed. Babe Ruth couldn’t touch Clayton Kershaw, or whoever the current pitching Flavor of the Month is.

That isn’t legitimate, either. An athlete can do no better than to dominate his era.

The football players of the 1960s weren’t as large. Or as fast. Well, guess what, if Jerry Kramer came along now, he’d have had the advantage of all that we know now that we didn’t then. He’d be larger. He’d be faster. He’d have the advantage of all the training techniques. So would Johnny Unitas. So would Wilt Chamberlain. So would Bobby Orr.

Petty Blue forever.
Petty Blue forever.

If Richard Petty was 22 again, now, and strapped himself into one of the Power Generics that pass for stock cars nowadays, he’d figure out how to get it around the track fast. He’d be more comfortable, too. Back in his day, winning drivers climbed out of their cars looking exhausted. Perhaps it was because a few climbed in looking hung over.

I get tired of this “but, uuhhh, back in Petty’s day, he used to lap the whole field.” Look into this a little more, bud. If not for free passes, wave-arounds, and hot-dog-wrapper cautions, drivers would lap the field now. NASCAR is highly competitive, but it’s not as much different from the old days as hype-aholics would have one believe. Engines and tires weren’t as reliable. More fell by the wayside. At the beginning of the races, particularly the big ones, there were lots of drivers in the lineup who had a shot.

Another fake measure is money. Most of it’s counterfeit. Today athletes make more in a game, or a match, or a tournament, or a contest, than many greats earned in their careers. Easter is probably the last day we should claim that money really means anything, but, for God’s sake (literally), if one must cite money, at least allow for inflation.

It’s not just sports, of course. Don’t tell me how much bigger than Gone with the Wind the latest box-office smash is until you charge everyone a nickel to get in.

I’m satisfied most readers of this blog will nod a couple of times while reading it, then go back to hinting darkly that Rory McIlroy is better than Arnold Palmer ever thought about being. At the very least, check back with me in 15 years. Let a career run its course, and try to compare mashies with mashies and not niblicks with spoons. Meanwhile, read my short fiction at www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com and then visit here and buy a novel or two: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1